backpacking
4 days ago

Great backpack trip if you park your solitude and wilderness expectations at the door and just enjoy it.

We did it in six days: Day 1: Hermit Gulch, Day 2: to Blackjack, Day 3: to Little Harbor, Day 4: to Two Harbors, Day 5: to Parsons, Day 6: Home.

We did the exact route provided by the Catalina Conservancy, but we did the west end of the island in a counterclockwise fashion instead of clockwise.

Caveats: 1) one segment of the westernmost trail from miles 28.5 to Mile 30 is called Fenceline Road. That part of the trail topped out at 30% grade and was very steep. There is an alternative route if you continue toward Silver Peak, and I'd recommend it as this part was just brutal (uphill) and would be dangerous on the downhill. 2) Fox boxes are provided at all campsites. Use them. A fox tore a hole in our tent to try to take our food bag. Our fault for listening to others who said it was okay. (The foxes are adorbs!)

Okay, that said, what a great romantic trip! Restaurants in Avalon, airport, and Two Harbors. We enjoyed being trail-trash and hanging out in Two Harbors as we awaited another couple joining us (who missed the early boat). We did this over Memorial Day and the weather was good for the whole trip except at Little Harbor where it was windy. The holiday weekend made for better music in Two Harbors. (A knowledgeable local says Little Harbor is the place to be in August).

Solitude whenever we were on the trail was interspersed with the tourists in Avalon and Two Harbor. The buffalo were mainly a) at Black Jack (one slept 25 feet away from our camp site [#1!]) and b) near and after the airport. Talk loud and they'll move off the trail.

Day 1 we took the 1:30 boat from Long Beach to Avalon and did the tourist thing. Hiking 5 miles between going to Hermit Gulch, going back to downtown for dinner, and back again with some exploration.

Day 2 is lots of up, followed by lots of up and down. It would have been excessively hot if the weather were so, but it wasn't. so. Views were nice. Blackjack campground is fun.

Day 3 You get to hoof it for a few miles to the airport, then have a giant breakfast! How cool is that? The ladies at the restaurant have trained the local ravens and squirrels, so there's a floor show too. After that you get to see the actual herd of buffalo. Again pretty cool. Others noted how they'd avoided the buffalo herd because they were on the trail. We just talked loudly as we approached and the herd lovingly moved for us. More amazing views as you cross the island and drop down to Little Harbor - Catalina's answer to car camping. Gorgeous views though. Too cool to swim, unfortunately. I will be back to set up a camping trip here at the beautiful giant group campsites.

Day 4: Two Harbors. Easy hike to Two Harbors where we'd meet our friends for their first backpack trip. The views just astound as you hike along the giant cliffs. The trail drops down and you reenter the madding crowd. But hey: grill and bar and shower. Our friends missed the 12:30 boat, so we had to sit there and eat tons, and drink (moderately) and dance to the live music. (Oh and hot showers!) Not bad.... Stayed at Two Harbors Campground. We had one down near the water. Maybe one of the sites up the hill would have been a bit better (but windier?)

Day 5: When we hiked from Two Harbors to Parsons, mostly on road (sad face) we passed Emerald Bay. I think we passed a church service in one of the anchorages consisting of many dingys cuddling up to a big yacht. Emerald Bay looked so amazing that we hiked down and ate and chilled and swam all afternoon. Once you pass the Boy Scout Campground, you are in the wilderness again with great shore views and the relatively secluded Parson's Landing. (Why did he land here, it's all rocks?)

Day 6: We split up with the girls roadwalking back past Emerald Bay while we tough guys climbed up to FOG. Yeah, no views, and that caveated blankety blank Fenceline Road. But we were done. Back at Two Harbors, we got food, got on the earlier boat and slept back San Pedro, where we got our friends to drive us to Long Beach (very near by, a cab would do as well.)

We didn't get to do the final beach because our friends were not up for the additional mileage to Startlight. So, that said, I'd likely extend this trip to include starlight beach for sure, since it seems cheezy not to go to the other end of the island.